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Apr 26, 2009 08:34 PM

My two-week Chicago feast (a report, or more like a catalogue)

I just finished a busy couple weeks in Chicago, with just enough time for work and food. With that in mind, I wanted to make the most of it, food-wise. My travels took me all over the city and surrounding suburbs, and as a result, I got to sample a pretty good range of Chi-town munchies. Pretty much everything I ate was good (many thanks to friends as well as to Chowhound and Yelp for all the suggestions). Here’s what I can remember, in no particular order, with stars next to particular stand-outs:

• *The Winner* - Hoanh Long (6144 N Lincoln in North Park). A bit of a hike, but so very worth it that I came back three times in two weeks (and I’m not usually one to repeat). Super-nice family running the place, took care of me even at the end of their night and remembered me when I came back two more times over the next week and a half. Had the PHENOMENAL spicy beef salad with papaya (there are two beef-and-papaya salads on the menu, and I think this is #15), so good I made a special trip back to the restaurant as my last Chicago meal just to have this dish again. Thin, grilled slices of beef over shredded papaya and other veggies with roasted peanuts. So fresh, a little sweet, pretty durn hot. Had the pho, which had a somewhat different taste than others I’ve had elsewhere, but in a good way. Had a spicy squid dish I’d read about, also worth repeating, in a rich and spicy sauce with a bit of a crunch. Tried the Vietnamese coffee and milk (tasty, very rich) and the salty lemonade with soda (oddly refreshing). Wish we had a place like this in Cambridge!
• **HB Restaurant (3404 N Halsted, Chicago). Found my way here accidently; happy accident! Truly fantastic, juicy pork chop.
• **Enoteca Roma Wine Bar and Bruscetteria (2146 W Division St, Chicago). Shout out to the bartender/manager here, who went out of his way to pick out a great dinner for me here. Rich polenta, splashed out with a venison sauce across a marble slab and the best affogato (ice cream, or in this case, burnt sugar-flavored gelato, covered with a shot of espresso) I’ve had in recent memory
• **Sticky Rice (4018 N Western Ave, Chicago). As everyone promised, delicious and fiery Thai
• **Publican (837 W Fulton Market, Chicago). All delicious, from the halibut and potee to the collard greens and pea sformato and even (or especially?) the beer. On that note, on the waiter’s recommendation, had a Belgian Stout (Brasserie Ellezelloise, Hercule Stout) which was easily one of the best beers I’ve tasted – though I was a touch surprised to get a $15 bill for the bottle
• **Intelligentsia (53 E Randolph St, Chicago and 3123 N Broadway, Chicago). Started off just about every morning with the daily special, robotically prepared for me in one of their three Clovers. Not to be too cheesy, but these guys come as close as anyone to reaching that impossible ideal of coffee that tastes as good and as rich as it smells. Had to bring a pound of beans home.
• **Harold’s (307 E 51st Street, Chicago). Delicious fried chicken and gravy on a bed of fries. It’s a testament to the greasy goodness of this food that we were willing to gobble it down as, er, a sort of savory dessert *after* another (not insubstantial) dinner.
• Taqueria El Milagro (1923 S Blue Island Ave, Chicago). Good tacos, very good bean tamale
• Graham Elliott (217 W Huron St, Chicago). Foie and rhubarb? Yes. Rabbit? Eh. Pork chop? Definitely yes.
• Cooker’s Red Hots (469 Lake Cook Rd, Deerfield). Happened to be out this way and Yelp helped me find a delicious Chicago char dog and fries and friendly service
• Chickpea (2018 Chicago Ave, Chicago). Home-style Palestinian food. Big fan of the citrus-y tea
• Edwardo’s (521 S Dearborn St, Chicago). Serious deep dish
• De Cero (814 W. Randolph, Chicago). Upmarket Mexican, good guac.
• **Cafe Hoang (232 W. Cermak Rd, Chicago). A bit of a wait, but 100% worth it for fresh, tasty Vietnamese
• **Pita Inn (3910 Dempster St, Skokie). Another Yelp find. This place is great, serving up generous portions of delicious Mediterranean grilled meats and mezzes along with homemade pita.
• Jerry's (1938 W Division St, Chicago). Upscale sandwiches for dinner? Definitely yes.
• Egg Harbor Café (512 N Western Ave, Lake Forest). Breakfast, tasty
• Dona Torta (3057 N Ashland Ave). Great tacos; torta was a bit much for my taste
• Brothers K Coffeehouse (500 Main St, Evanston). Great vibe, great pastries, great espresso drinks, free wi-fi – perfect place to hunker down for a working morning
• Eden’s Fast Food Restaurant (6045 N Cicero Avenue). Another Yelp find. Delicious, if greasy, chicken gyro
• Moncafe (231 E Wisconsin Ave, Lake Forest). Good service; mediocre coffee

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  1. Looks like you had a truly great time here, and went to places that probably a lot of locals don't even go to. A few of my faves:

    Enoteca Roma: Hope you sampled Letizia's wonderful desserts.
    Sticky Rice: pig intestine, hmmmm.
    Publican: Potee. Pork rinds. Beer. Where do i stop?
    De Cero: Best tacos and margarita in town.

    1. This is the way to do it, for sure. Great selection and great report.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rubinow

        Ditto! Will have to track down that salty lemonade with soda. And must finally make the trip to Sticky Rice - thanks for the encouragement. On behalf of Chicago, glad you liked it, Josh! Come back soon.

      2. My husband and I went to Chicago to visit friends this past weekend, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Hoanh Long; it was so good, I was sorry we only ate there once! We had the marinated pork with egg (#72) and the ginger fish with scallions (#82) and both were exceptional - our friend had the charcoal beef (I forget the #) which was also delicious. Also of note: we got there at 1:30 on a Sunday, and it was still full of lunch-eaters - a good sign.

        1. I cannot believe how many times my wife and I passed Hoanh Long and yet we never even noticed it. After reading your review and knowing that we would once again be passing their restaurant on the way to our Sunday evening of Argentine Tango dancing in Lincoln Sq., we stopped there for dinner. We ordered so much that we have been eating leftovers for 2 days. The vegetarian spring rolls were excellent, the #15 Beef papaya salad on peanuts was great, the Pho was great, the beef dish and the chicken dish we ordered were great. We have already recommended the restaurant to a number of our friends and plan on going back there regularly. I just love Chowhounds!

          1. What an amazing list! I'm thoroughly impressed by how local and under/above the radar you went.

            **Enoteca Roma Wine Bar and Bruscetteria (2146 W Division St, Chicago). Did you have a chance to sit in the gorgeous outside garden? Probably my favorite place to drink in the city.
            • **Sticky Rice (4018 N Western Ave, Chicago). What about the silk worm appetizers? They do taste like french fries!
            • **Publican (837 W Fulton Market, Chicago). I'm excited to try this place too and if you're excited by a unqiue selection of beer, you should try Bluebird on Damen ave.
            • **Intelligentsia (53 E Randolph St, Chicago and 3123 N Broadway, Chicago). Awesome, I love this coffee-and everyone on the board raves about Metropolis too (maybe next time?)
            • **Harold’s (307 E 51st Street, Chicago). Delicious fried chicken and gravy on a bed of fries. - Er, no white bread at the bottom to soak up the sauce?
            • Chickpea (2018 Chicago Ave, Chicago). They just started their delivery service if anyone on the board is interested in getting the food but disinterested in moving.
            • **Cafe Hoang (232 W. Cermak Rd, Chicago). The Bun at Cafe Hoang is probably my favorite noodle.